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Biometric Passports

BBC News, Jo Twist

By the middle of next year, the British passport could be quite different to the document currently waved at immigration.

As part of growing concerns about national and global security, immigration and asylum, as well as plain old identity theft, the official UK travel document will not just carry a photograph, it will also have a microchip in it.

The chip will hold biometric data - unique physiological or behavioural characteristics - and will be mandatory in passports renewed from 2007/8.

From mid-2005, this data will be in the form of a digitised photograph which will be matched with the passport's chip.

The photo and the chip will have the digital signature of the UK Passport Service (UKPS), in an attempt to protect against possible fraud.

One other biometric identifier, iris pattern or fingerprints, will also eventually be stored on the chip and trials are underway in the UK to decide which one is used.

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